A recently published study headed by Norwegian researchers found that there is a correlation between religious practice and lower blood pressure.
In research published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, researchers concluded that lower blood pressure can be linked to church attendance. Dr. Harold G. Koenig, one of the authors of the research, told The Christian Post that this study was one of many that has shown this trend.
“About two-thirds of the research, now over 60 quantitative studies, report that those who are more religiously active have significantly lower blood pressure,” said Koenig.
Koenig also said he believes the cause of lowered blood pressure was based strongly on what people experienced while attending church.
“It is a lot more complex of a relationship than simply going to church and your blood pressure decreasing,” said Koenig.
“If going to church leads you to a deeper relationship with God, as a result a deeper sense of peace and a more loving relationship with your neighbor, then it could indeed affect blood pressure.”
The study, titled “The Relationship Between Religious Attendance and Blood Pressure: The Hunt Study,” was overseen by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
While Koenig and researchers from NTNU believe their paper likely shows that church attendance affects blood pressure, others are skeptical.
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, told CP that he believes the findings were more on social gatherings rather than religious practice per se.
“Of course, when people regularly participate in a community, be it church, synagogue, or an atheist club, they are going to be healthier because they have more human interaction and a social support network,” said Speckhardt.
“To measure whether or not churches provide a benefit that atheist clubs do not, a study would have to compare attendance to both instead of just looking at frequency of church attendance.”
Given the results of their study, the researchers have expressed interest in expanding upon their work to include other health aspects possibly affected by religious practice.
Professor Jostein Holmen, another author of the study who is from NTNU's Faculty of Medicine, said in a statement that more studies could be done on this topic.
"The fact that churchgoers have lower blood pressure encourages us to continue to study this issue. We're just in the start-up phase of an exciting research area in Norway," said Holmen.
Holmen also said that an area of possible future research would be on whether these findings could be duplicated in other faith communities.
“The study of the relationship between religion and health has rarely focused on other religions, such as Judaism and Islam,” said Holmen.
“It is therefore difficult to say anything about whether or not this same association can be found in these communities.”
The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine released its first volume in 1970 and is published by Baywood Publishing Company Inc. According to its Baywood’s website, IJPM seeks “to address the complex relationships among biological, psychological, social, religious and cultural systems in patient care.”